On August 16, Darwin was the venue for a screening of Our Generation, a landmark new documentary about the plight of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory living under the repressive NT intervention.
The film focuses on the effects of the intervention on the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land, which coincided with a move by the NT Labor government to move people off traditional homelands and into larger towns (the “hub town” policy).
The evening was introduced and chaired by former ABC foreign correspondent Jeff McMullen. Guest speakers and performers included filmmakers Senim Saban and Damien Curtis, musicians Shane Howard, Mama Kin and Shellie Morris.
Yolngu elders involved in the making of the film also spoke, including the Reverend Dr Djiniyini Gondarra. Gondarra has recently returned from Geneva where he and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks from Central Australia addressed the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
In discussion following the film, Saban and Curtis spoke or their abhorrence of the claims of child abuse in Aboriginal communities, which were used to justify the Intervention. Many Yolngu people also spoke of the shame of these slurs, their feelings of powerlessness and their lack of trust in politicians, which the intervention has engendered.
Gondarra talked of the “doctrine of discovery”, which he said colonising powers used to “conquer, kill and take the land” of indigenous peoples around the world. He told the UN that the NT intervention was “not a special measure, it is a racist action”. He also called for a treaty with Australia's first people.
Curtis said the film would be available for purchase. The filmmakers hope to foster a grassroots movement around the film, with screenings taking place in peoples' homes, workplaces and as community events.
McMullen outlines plans to reach an international audience through people such as Al Gore, US President Barak Obama and James Cameron, who made Avatar. He hoped increased public awareness about the plight of Aboriginal people, and pressure from the UN on the Australian government to abide by its commitments under the Charter on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, would result, finally, in, the intervention being repealed.
Many audience members were visibly moved by the speeches and the film, which received a standing ovation.
[For more information, or to order a copy of the film, visit www.ourgeneration.org.au .]